The Hotel Cafe
November 25, 2009
One of the reasons I love Butch Walker is because he’s honest. (Either Walker is really honest or he’s a really good liar.) Another reason I love Butch Walker is because he’s cool. And not just cool, but sexy cool. Walker reminds you that it’s sexy cool to be honest.
And that’s what makes a Butch Walker show what it is. Sure, the music is good; his passion and expressive stage presence is entertaining and refreshing; his sense of humor makes you forget about anything his songs may have made you remember. . . But what makes a Butch Walker show a Butch Walker show is that it’s one place (especially in LA) where it’s okay to be vulnerable; it’s cool to be unguarded and real. As they sing along to every song, at a volume that nears screaming (albeit melodic), the crowd acknowledges that they’ve felt that way too. And while they may not have been brave enough to express it before, Butch Walker shows are a safe place for people to exclaim, “Yeah, I’m a little fucked up,” and then to celebrate that we all are.
Last night’s show at The Hotel Cafe was the last show of Butch Walker’s 4-week residency at the venue. During the 3 prior shows Walker played one of his albums start to finish. Last night’s event was a fan request show. Every song on the set list (except two new songs) was requested by fans via Twitter. This proved to be more challenging for Walker as it forced him to re-learn some songs he hadn’t played in years, songs he’d forgotten he’d written. In some cases, he played songs he claimed to never have played live before. “There’s gonna be a lot of fucking up tonight,” Butch Walker remarked early on during his set.
Fans knew the words better than Walker as he played songs he swore he’d never play live again. “I hate playing this song. It’s really hard to sing – it has too many words,” Walker explained before launching into “Suburbia.” “I swore I’d never play this song live again, but you requested it . . . “ Walker’s commitment to his fans was reaffirmed numerous times during his 2-hour set.
Between songs Walker lent insight into the lyrics and where he was (figuratively speaking) when he wrote each song. He openly explained that some of the songs were hard for him to sing now. “A lot of these (songs) - I’m having trouble connecting with them now because I don’t know where I was then.” Reflecting back, prior to playing some of his earlier material, Walker remembered that he used to scream a lot more when he was younger. At 40-years old he admits to being much happier now. “I had more things to be angry about back then. Well, I’ll try to scream tonight. I’ll give it a shot. . .” Walker said before launching into some of his more angst-ridden songs.
Walker played “I’m A Believer” for some fans who flew all the way from Atlanta to see the show. Walker’s parents also flew in for the show to which Walker remarked, “I never thought I’d be drinking whiskey from a bottle, in front of my parents. Well, I’m alls growned up now. . .”
Halfway through “Beautiful,” which Walker had trouble singing seriously, he added some lyrics, “I’d go get your fucking money back.” When he finished singing “Beautiful,” Walker explained his inability to play the song without laughing, “I feel like this song is a hair product commercial.”
After every song about heartbreak and pain, Walker had a way of making the crowd laugh hysterically. “I decided tonight I’m just gonna talk to you like I’m on YouTube. Like you’re watching it. . . y’know? Because when I get home this whole show will be up on YouTube and I’ll watch it and think, ‘Oh, don’t wear that!’”
In response to some holiday song requests, Walker pondered, “There aren’t any Thanksgiving songs. We should make up a Thanksgiving song.” Then, while strumming an upbeat tune, Walker sang, “White men are assholes. White men are assholes. We took this land, took this land, took this land, took this land. White men are assholes. . . I’m happy to be here.”
Walker introduced “Vampires In Love,” a song he wrote in 1997, 12 years ahead of its time. “Cuz it would be stupid to do something like that now,” Walker said, referring to the current popularity of vampire stories such as the Twighlight series and True Blood. “It just reaffirms my belief that I should never play this song again.” Walker let the audience take over the vocals as he playfully mocked the song with dramatic facial expressions. After he finished playing “Vampires In Love,” Walker commented, “That song is like Fisher Price My First Song. . . the lyrics are so stupid.”
He played fan-favorite song after fan-favorite song, deviating from the fan request format only twice to play new songs. Walker wrote one of the songs for his young son, reminding him to live a complete, full, passionate, fun-filled life, and not to make some of the mistakes Walker had.
Walker took us on a journey from one side of love to another, singing “Let Me Go”:
Please just let me go
And I won’t be your shadow anymore
Followed by “Last Flight Out”:
Is this all there really is?
Life after you
Is it all there really is?
What else can I do?
I’m just gonna taste your kiss
No matter who I’m with
“This is my get out jail free song. I’m not gonna sing it – you are,” Walker said as he began playing another fan anthem. If that’s the case, all the songs Walker played last night could be considered “get out of jail free songs” – the audience sang every one.
As Walker played the older songs he seemed to get younger. I could picture him, 20 years ago, 20 years old, sitting in his bedroom. . . Just as cool then as he is now. I thought about all the musicians who’ve collaborated with Walker, those fortunate enough to have his producer credit on their album. “It would be a lot of fun to work with Butch,” I thought. He takes what he does seriously, but he also knows how to have fun. Butch Walker has changed since he wrote many of the songs he played last night. He’s more relaxed and knows first and foremost how to have a good time. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t scream much any more.
Butch Walker leaves the screaming (and sometimes the singing) to the fans.